Benny and Joon Review

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It would be easy to slam this flimsy romantic charmer for its cloying whimsicality, but at the core of its misfits-need-love-too storyline lies a warmhearted charm so captivating that only the most hardened cynic will fail to be enchanted.

Two flakes - Sam (Depp), a childlike Chaplinesque drifter, and Joon (Masterson), a mentally disturbed painter living under the overprotective thumb of her car mechanic big brother Benny (Quinn) - come together after Joon "wins" Sam in a poker game, and brings him home.

Benny, inevitably, doesn't immediately warm to his eccentric house guest, but since his ostensibly schizophrenic sibling sends her live-in-nurses packing with alarming regularity, having Sam around will give him more free time to woo waitress Ruthie Quhanne (Moore). That awkwardly evolving relationship, however, is a mere sideline to the series of rather precious ploys designed to show just how nutty and huggable Sam and Joon really are - individually and as an item.

Sam is mostly a semi-literate, baggy-trousered mute who cooks grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board, while Joon, in one of the script's many cutesy notions about mental illness sufferers, takes to the streets to direct traffic with a ping-pong paddle wearing a snorkel mask. Nonetheless, the performances are immensely likeable, with Masterson shining yet again as a fiery but graceful presence, Quinn making the best of yet another blue-eyed saint role, and Depp appealing as the scatty hippie-child.

Chechik directs in a languid, almost distracted fashion, never hurrying things along until he arrives at the heart-tugging finale and swiftly wraps it up with a presto! resolution. This is a wisp of a movie, to be sure, but underneath all the absurd comic fringes and the much-abused crazies-are-really-sane theme beats the heart of a genuinely poetic love story.